Codesigning remotely, does that even make sense?

Sincere meetings and good communication - two of the core ingredients in successful co-design. What if these two factors are taken away from the equation?

Katja Grufberg, one of our UX designers, shares her swift taste of the last six months.

Spring 2020 severely altered our ways of working in design processes at Zenit Design. From working closely together in interdisciplinary design teams, where gesturing and sketching are our universal languages, we were now forced to work remotely and far apart. Gesturing made no sense anymore and sketching was purely digital. However, we quickly adapted to the new situation, found new ways of working hard and efficiently together, but of course always missing the irl piece of the Zenit family.

One of the biggest challenges we were facing this spring was in an extensive UX project for a global machine manufacturer; to co-design a sleek and user friendly HMI experience.

When the pandemic hit us, we were just preparing to do user studies with machine operators in various countries. To observe the users on site or to do contextual interviews, was definitely not an option anymore. Borders and factories were closing and we were left with the only option of doing user studies remotely, through video conference platforms, with users at home taken out of their user context. Also, many with whom we did not even share a language. 

We made it though! Months later we have a very happy client and we have managed to co-design an HMI together with real users, their interpreters and various new (and old) digital methods and tools. Of course it was frustrating from time to time, but foremost it was an eye opening, insightful and, at times, overwhelming challenge. People literally opened up their homes to us. And we shared ours. Video conference backgrounds of playing kids, barking dogs, trucks outside the windows, plumbers at the doors. Life. Maybe the perspective from being apart from their jobs made it easier for them to focus on “When all this is over, what do I need to be able to bring harmony into my work?”.

September 28, 2020
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